Tonight was the night before Yom Kippur. In the Jewish tradition, Yom Kippur is the holiest of days. It's the day that your fate for the year in inscribed into the book of life.
To be honest, I'm not entirely sure about all that. I don't know if I ever was. But nonetheless, I observe. There is comfort in tradition.
Over the last handful of years, I've been reevaluating my beliefs. With kids in the picture, you're forced to look more acutely into what you think, what you say, how you want to portray yourself, what you want to teach, preach. Jonny being gone seriously changes a lot, but also makes me look inside again, reevaluate, scrutinize.
I love our traditions. I love how they bring family together. I love how they are based in moral and virtuous roots. And while I cannot bring myself to understand the details of much of the beliefs and rules, I try to find significance for myself in the rituals.
Traditionally, Yom Kippur is a day of fasting. No food. No water. No brushing teeth even (silly I know). The basis of the practice is a good one. It is meant to take food and gluttony out of the day's equation. It is meant to take our mind off of the routine of meals and immediate needs and force us to focus on our souls, our goals, ourselves.
Unfortunately, so many American Jews have turned it into something else. It is a guilt thing. A challenge. A barometer for good vs. bad. This I believe to be toxic. For the mind and the body. It is not a holiday to hurt ourselves. To see what we can withstand. To prove anything about our will.
I like the idea of a day of reflection, cleansing, pontificating though. I think that taking food out of the equation is a nice way to set this day aside. To think. To plan. To measure.
But as a nutritionist I know that eating a huge meal ("To hold you over") then fasting from food and water for a day, to only eat another huge meal (consisting of bagels and cream cheese and cookies) is not healthy for the mind or the body.
This year I have a lot of sorting out to do. And I don't want it to be done on a foggy mind. So we've created some new traditions of our own. Here's how they go:
1. Instead of fasting entirely, we are juice fasting. Citrus, green, and nut juices and mylks will sustain us without clouding our minds with the next meal. They will also keep us alert and clear and help clean out our minds and bodies.
2. Instead of just lighting the yahrzeit candle (a memorial candle lit on the anniversary of a loved one's death and important holy days) and letting it burn, we decided to sit around after lighting it and each say something about Jonny. Avi said he was funny. "That's all I wanted to say" she told us while she giggled. Bar said she loves him. I talked about his toes and how when Avital was about 2 she used to run away from him, baiting him, laughing about how he didn't cut his toe nails. She would say it every time his name came up, like it was the funniest thing in the world. Like mama like baby I guess. Richie told the story to Avi about how she rode home with him and screamed the whole way... He loves that one.